Afghan factions meeting in Germany have moved closer to a deal to set up an interim government, but suffered a setback when a top Northern Alliance delegate walked out of the talks today (Friday).
Haji Abdul Qadir is the governor of the eastern Afghan province of Nangahar, and one of the few ethnic Pashtuns holding a leadership role in the Alliance dominated by Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. He left the talks after unspecified disagreements with other Alliance members. Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, and are a majority in the south.
Mr. Qadir's departure came after delegates and U-N officials expressed optimism that an agreement on an interim government for Afghanistan could be reached by Saturday, when the conference in Bonn is scheduled to end.
The Northern Alliance dropped a key demand on Thursday when the head of the delegation (Younus Qanooni) said an international peacekeeping force could enter Afghanistan after an interim administration is in place.
The Alliance previously said such a force was not necessary. But other groups at the conference have insisted on international peacekeepers, to prevent the deadly chaos that prevailed in Afghanistan when fighting broke out among Northern Alliance factions and others before the Taleban took control in 1996.
What emerged before today's fourth day of talks is a plan for an executive government body of 15 to 25 members, representing the various factions, and a larger council of up to 200 members to handle some legislative duties.
U-N spokesman Ahmad Fawzi says the delegates have only reached a broad agreement, and still have to decide the ethnic and political makeup of the governing bodies.
The factions also have yet to agree on a role for exiled former King Zahir Shah. His supporters are pushing for him to head an interim government. The Northern Alliance calls the former king a unifying force, but is still pushing for Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former president ousted by the Taleban five years ago, to lead the interim government.